Who: Mexico vs. Ecuador
What: International Friendly
Where: New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Friday, 9 p.m. ET
Mexico's second-to-last phase of World Cup qualifying will begin with a match against Ecuador. The Mexican national team will inaugurate New Meadowlands Stadium before a sold-out crowd.
The two teams are headed in the opposite direction as Mexico are part of Group A in next month's World Cup while Ecuador saw its streak of two consecutive World Cup appearances snapped.
This will be the first game for Javier Aguirre to start breaking down the positions and sorting through which players are capable of locking down spots for the World Cup. Goals are at a premium as always, and with the loss of Miguel Sabah the onus on finding a reliable scoring option off the bench is there. Of the players on the roster now, Adolfo "Bofo" Bautista and Alberto Medina stand to gain the most from Sabah's loss. Neither Bautista nor Medina have shown a lot in their limited opportunities this year but perhaps having a World Cup spot within reach could serve as a motivating factor for the two to show well against Ecuador.
Perhaps the biggest question - aside from the final roster itself - is who will start in goal for Mexico in South Africa. Whoever starts this game won't necessarily start in South Africa, nor does it mean he has an advantage over the other two, but it will be an audition for the starting post nonetheless. Mexican coaches have said this week that there is no number one 'keeper, which if true means any of the Guillermo Ochoa, Luis Ernesto Michel and Oscar Perez have a shot of starting in South Africa.
Since none of the 'keepers has played a competitive match in several weeks, it will be important for the players to get playing time. Since Mexico will play four games in the next 10 days, the goalkeeping position will likely be shared between the trio.
Hector Moreno joined the Mexican national team immediately following the completion of the Dutch Eredivisie campaign. While it may not necessarily mean Moreno will have a step ahead of any of the other European-based players, it shows his level of commitment. Moreno skipped out on vacation time in order to join Mexico, and that alone seems to be a positive.
Moreno has obviously not been a part of the national team camp as much as the rest of the defenders but given the number of players on the roster - Moreno ups Mexico's players to 17 total - he should dress and could see playing time soon. Unlike some of the other European-based defenders such as Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio and Rafael Marquez, Moreno is not a lock to make the World Cup team. He is talented and stands to have a good chance of making the roster but still must have good outings in order to prove himself. Being in the stadium for Mexico's first game during this stretch is an important first step.
For his part, Andres Guardado has been with the national team since injury ruled out finishing the La Liga campaign with Deportivo, but "El Principe" could dress and see action in this match as well.
Projected Starting Lineups
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Efrain Juarez, Jonny Magallon, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Jorge Torres Nilo; Alberto Medina, Gerardo Torrado, Israel Castro, Pablo Barrera; Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Javier Hernandez.
Ecuador: Marcelo Elizaga; Miguel Ibarra, Marcelo Fleitas, Ivan Hurtado, Giovanni Nazareno; Fernando Hidalgo, Pedro Quiñonez, Oswaldo Minda, Michael Jackson Quiñónez; Michael Arroyo, Jaime Ivan Kaviedes.
Goal.com Prediction: Mexico 2, Ecuador 1.